Rivalries: Georges St. Pierre

By Brian Knapp Jan 8, 2021
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Most observers place him on the short list for Greatest of All-Time consideration, so it should come as little surprise that Georges St. Pierre continues to cast a shadow on the sport more than three years after his most recent appearance.

A two-division titleholder who struck Ultimate Fighting Championship gold at 170 and 185 pounds, St. Pierre piled up a remarkable list of accomplishments during his 15-year career. The longtime Firas Zahabi protégé retired in 2019 with a 26-2 record that included victories over Michael Bisping, Nick Diaz, Carlos Condit, Jake Shields, Josh Koscheck (twice), Dan Hardy, Thiago Alves and Jon Fitch. St. Pierre remains the UFC’s all-time leader in control time (2:42:04), top position time (2:22:05), total strikes landed (2,591) and takedowns completed (90). He also ranks third in significant strike defense (.731), fourth in wins (20) and takedown accuracy (.738), seventh in submission attempts (24) and 10th in significant strikes landed (1,313).

As St. Pierre approaches his 40th birthday on May 19, a look at a few of the rivalries upon which he built his reputation:

Matt Hughes

St. Pierre cleared the first significant mental hurdle of his career in the UFC 65 main event, where he faced Hughes for a second time on Nov. 18, 2006 at ARCO Arena in Sacramento, California. Hughes had handed “Rush” his first loss two years prior, when he countered a kimura attempt and submitted him with an armbar 4:59 into the first round of their UFC 50 pairing. Subsequent wins over Dave Strasser, Jason Miller, Frank Trigg, Sean Sherk and B.J. Penn put St. Pierre in position for a rematch with Hughes. The Tristar Gym cornerstone made the most of his opportunity, as he bashed the future hall of famer with a head kick before finishing him with punches and elbows on the ground in the second round. While his first title reign would be brief, St. Pierre proved he had the goods to be champion. They met once more at UFC 79, where GSP closed the book on his trilogy with Hughes by submitting him with a second-round armbar in December 2007.

Matt Serra

No one saw it coming, least of all St. Pierre. Having been awarded a title shot for winning Season 4 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series, Serra entered their UFC 69 main event on April 7, 2007 at the Toyota Center in Houston as a +700 underdog. He was viewed as David to St. Pierre’s Goliath, minus the sling and the stone. Some wondered if “Rush” would even break a sweat in defending the welterweight championship for the first time since he dethroned the aforementioned Hughes. A little more than three minutes after their main event began, the MMA world had witnessed arguably the greatest upset in the sport’s history. Serra showed no fear, carved up St. Pierre with power punches and eventually climbed to full mount to finish him 3:25 into the first round. The adversity forced St. Pierre to look in the mirror at age 25. He would not lose again. After consecutive victories over Hughes and Koscheck, St. Pierre brutalized Serra in their rematch to reclaim the welterweight crown.

Johny Hendricks

Hendricks thought he had it in the bank, but two judges had other ideas. St. Pierre retained his Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight crown with a controversial split decision over Hendricks in the UFC 167 headliner on Nov. 16, 2013 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Two of the three cageside judges—Sal D’Amato and Tony Weeks—cast 48-47 scorecards for St. Pierre, while Glenn Trowbridge sided with Hendricks by the same score. Hendricks landed the more concussive blows and exacted more of a physical toll during the 25-minute encounter, his heavy hands leaving the longtime champion battered, bloodied and bruised. “Bigg Rigg” utilized brutal knee strikes to the thigh from the clinch and mixed in takedowns at various points. Hendricks had St. Pierre in serious trouble in the second round, where he staggered him with a left uppercut and followed up with more powerful strikes to the head. St. Pierre did his best work in rounds three and five, as he chipped away with his trademark jab and took down the two-time NCAA national wrestling champion. Still, in the eyes of many, it did not warrant a victory on the scorecards.

B.J. Penn

Their first encounter was competitive, resulting in a split decision for St. Pierre in 2006. The rematch told an entirely different story, as “Rush” flexed his superiority across all phases in the UFC 94 main event on Jan. 31, 2009 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. As each round passed, St. Pierre dug deeper into Penn’s defenses, as he neutralized the Hawaiian’s considerable standup skills, forced him to his back and hammered away at him on the ground. St. Pierre leaned on Penn from the start, pressed him against the cage and sucked the energy from his 168-pound frame. Keenly aware of Penn’s penchant for fast starts, St. Pierre made sure to establish himself early in the fight. By the third and fourth round, Penn had grown visibly discouraged, his pace labored. St. Pierre scored at will with takedowns and passed the former Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion’s guard with stunning ease. His relentless ground-and-pound—punches, elbows and knees—also took a heavy toll on Penn, whose head and body were often exposed in side control. At the conclusion of Round 4, Penn had nothing more to give, and his corner motioned for the cage-side doctor to stop the fight. Advertisement
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